Marjorie Van Eenam and Robert Ward Butcher

Marjorie Van Eenam Butcher:
Mathematics Professor, 1956-1989
Honorary Doctor of Science, 2009
Wall of Honor inductee, 2016

Marjorie Van Eenam Butcher’s long and storied history with Trinity College began in 1956 when she was hired as the first female faculty member, an adjunct mathematics professor, after six months of deliberation by College government. She received her B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of Michigan in 1942, followed by an M.A. in actuarial mathematics. After working as an insurance company actuarial trainee and teaching at the University of Michigan, Marjorie and her husband Robert made their new home in Hartford, Connecticut, where Robert worked with the Travelers Insurance Companies.

Marjorie quickly garnered respect on campus from fellow faculty, staff, and especially her students, to whom who was known as the “Butcher of Mathematics” for her tough grading style. She was dedicated to helping her students succeed and would hold longer than usual office hours to tutor and mentor, with a mission to “convey the elegance of mathematics.” With her actuarial background, Marjorie stressed the importance of applied mathematics in a liberal arts education. 

In 1979 Marjorie earned a full professorship — again, the first woman to achieve this distinction — and continued to teach up until her retirement in 1989, after 33 years of service to the College.  But Marjorie’s involvement with Trinity didn’t end there — she continued to be an active member of the Trinity community for another 25 years, and was recognized with an honorary doctor of science degree in 2009. Both Marjorie and Robert shared passions for applied mathematics and chapel music, and attended many lectures and other events on campus, such as concerts by College Organist John Rose and his students.

Marjorie passed away on April 6, 2016, leaving a substantial bequest to the College. The bequest provides for occasional, extraordinary major repairs and renovations of the Trinity College Chapel’s pipe organs and also establishes two endowed positions: The John Rose College Organist-and-Directorship Distinguished Chair of Chapel Music and the Marjorie V. and Robert W. Butcher Distinguished Professorship in Applied Mathematics. It is the largest gift ever made by a faculty member to the College.

A portrait of Marjorie hangs in the Roy Nutt Mathematics, Engineering & Computer Science Center on campus. It was commissioned in 1991 by Trinity’s Student Government Association to commemorate coeducation, and serves as a reminder of the woman who inspired countless students and had a monumental impact on the evolution of Trinity College. 

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